Donald R. Puddy, 67, whose 31-year career with NASA spanned the Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs, died Nov. 22 in Houston following a lengthy illness.
Puddy joined NASA's Johnson Space Center in 1964 and spent 22 years as a key leader of human space flights in the Mission Control Center.
As a flight director, he led flight control teams during the Apollo Program, the three long-duration Skylab missions and the Apollo-Soyuz Test project. He also served as the flight director for the first Space Shuttle landing on April 14, 1981. Puddy was only the 10th person to become a NASA flight director.
"Don’s leadership as a flight director was critical during our transition from Apollo through the early Space Shuttle flights," said Milt Heflin, Chief of the JSC Flight Director Office. "His diverse talents allowed him to serve NASA and the country in many capacities."
Following his work in Mission Control, Puddy held other leadership roles at JSC, NASA's Ames Research Center, California, and NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. He was responsible for creating and managing many project and aircraft safety procedures, and he was instrumental in early joint collaboration between the U.S. and Russian space programs.
Puddy's contributions to the space program were recognized by numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal.
A native of Oklahoma, Puddy was inducted into the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame in 2002.
"I had the honor of presenting Don at his induction into the Hall of Fame," said Heflin. "We are from the same part of Oklahoma, and I felt especially privileged to pay tribute to him that day. He was my friend and my mentor, providing me guidance and encouragement to meet the challenges of working in Mission Control."
Flags over the Mission Control Center were flown at half staff today to honor Puddy's memory.
Puddy is survived by his high school sweetheart and wife of 48 years, Dana. He also is survived by their three sons, Mike, Doug and Glenn, and six grandchildren. Memorial services are pending.
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